Feb 182018
 

It’s no secret that I love words. Back when I was in third grade, we had to present an oral report about a book that described the job we wanted to have as an adult. I don’t recall the book I found for this purpose, but I told my classmates that I wanted to be an author. To date, I haven’t written a book, but I have published poetry, some newspaper articles and hundreds of blog posts. I even sell handmade books and journals in my Etsy shop, MisterPenQuin—simply to spread the joy of the written word—but also because I cannot fill enough of them in a lifetime just by myself!

I collect interesting words, books, magazines, and lists of articles, stories and posts I want to read in the same manner a philatelist collects stamps, or a numismatist collects coins. I’m a bibliophile who also collects writing journals the way a child collects rocks and lines them up on a shelf to admire.

Let’s talk about the joy of journal-writing. Perhaps you have admired the covers of journals in bookstores or online, but you cannot imagine how you would ever fill all those blank pages. Well, I have a solution for you: jog over to the Apple store and download a free app called Paper Blanks Journal Prompts, and you’ll be off to the races. If you use an Android device, go to Google Play to download the same app.

Paper Blanks is a company that specializes in producing the most beautiful writing journals I have ever seen. I own a few of them and treasure each one. The company uses acid-free, sustainable forest paper and 100% recycled binder boards for its products. It also supports organizations that advocate for social and environmental responsibility. “At the heart of everything we create,” they say, “is our belief that art matters.”

When you open the Paper Blanks Journal Prompts app, you’ll be greeted with a writing prompt that you can change simply by tapping New Prompt. If it’s a prompt out of which you think you’ll get lots of mileage, you can also save it as a favorite.

Under Settings, you can select one, multiple or all nine categories of prompts, depending on your interests.

When you click on More at the bottom of the screen, choose Journal Resources to get to Endpaper, the Paper Blanks blog.

What caught my attention, when I did this, was a post titled 28 New Journaling Prompts for Letter Writing Month.

It turns out that February is International Correspondence Writing Month, also known as InCoWriMo, dedicated to handwritten letters. The idea is to write one letter a day to someone and to mail it off. We are already past the halfway mark of February, so I wish I would have known about InCoWriMo earlier, but as the folks at this site say, you’re welcome to join in at any point—although you might have a little makeup writing to do! Even if you don’t officially join the venture this year, you can definitely use one of your blank journals to write letters to your future self, to the adult version of your child, or simply use letter-writing prompts to explore journal writing.

As you read this post, you may wonder if I was paid to write a testimonial for Paper Blanks, and the answer is no. I simply love their journals, as well as the concept of journal-writing. I encourage you to handwrite in a journal, but if you prefer to use a keyboard, by all means do so. People journal for all kinds of reasons—to improve their writing, to analyze what they have read, to reflect on events, experiences or feelings, to keep track of ideas or dreams, to reduce stress, to record favorite quotations or Bible verses, to express gratitude, to stay organized . . . and the list goes on.

The Internet is filled with many journal-writing prompts you can explore. Below are a few to get you started:

If you like to journal, how do you use your journal? Feel free to comment below.

© 2018 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Nov 082017
 

One month before the December holidays, most folks I know are getting serious about finishing (or starting!) their handmade gifts, or wrapping up (pardon the pun) their gift purchases. It’s also that time of year when my local scrapbooking store, Memory Bound, holds its Holiday Open House. This past Thursday through Sunday, the Jingle All the Way Holiday Open House saw many visitors, including yours truly.

One of the reasons I like visiting Memory Bound, especially when special events like the Holiday Open House are held, is that they are wonderful creativity-starters. Even if you aren’t a paper crafter, aren’t you a little bit tempted by the projects shown in their Facebook photo album or the video shown below? (Click on the photo to see the video.)

Honestly, I didn’t have anything specific in mind when I visited the shop Sunday afternoon, but several tree projects caught my attention. This first project is a Joyful Tree that consists of pre-cut wood pieces that you’ll paint white, cover with decorative paper and winter-themed embellishments, then top off with a star or other tree topper made out of wood, fabric, felt, ribbon or anything else you desire. The tree, when finished, stands about 23 inches high. The easy-to-assemble project is packaged in a Kaisercraft Christmas Tree kit that costs $12.95 at Memory Bound.

The second tree project I spotted is based on an Accordion Tree pattern you can purchase exclusively from Memory Bound for only $1. You’ll need a wood base, dowel, scrapbook paper and glue for this project. The sample Accordion Trees at Memory Bound used Cozy paper by Authentique, and were topped off by a large snowflake, embellished with a raffia cord bow. The base consisted of a wood tree slice, but you can use any wooden base that provides stability. The pattern is easy to follow and the tree looks real cute on your kitchen or dining room table, the top of your piano, a shelf or an accent table.

As I exited Memory Bound, this wood-slat, painted Santa Grooved Tree caught my eye. The shop offers a daytime class on Friday, November 17th during office hours when I normally work, so I will not be able to take advantage of it. But if you’re interested, the class is taught by Laurie Speltz from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The class fee of $47 includes everything you need except for basic supplies such as a craft mat, baby wipes, a Basic 5 Brush Set, a Black Pigma Micron .01 Pen, and stencil brushes. If you live in or near Ankeny, call Memory Bound at 515-965-1102 to learn about registration details.

So, why did I actually visit Memory Bound this past Sunday? I had no preconceived ideas (which makes for some risky shopping), but I was looking for something with a winter/holiday theme. What I ended up with is this lovely selection of papers and some jute ribbon spools. Stay tuned to find out what I do with them.

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Nov 052017
 

This past Saturday was the culmination of months’ worth of evenings and weekends when I crocheted an endless stream of women’s winter accessories: head warmers, scarflettes, fingerless gloves and boot cuffs. I sell these items at only two craft fairs a year, which is likely my capacity because I also work full-time in an office. It can be challenging to create as much product as needed, or to start a new line. This year saw the introduction of boot cuffs.

Saturday’s craft show—the first time at this particular venue—went well. My husband and I rose early to set up our booth space at Santa’s North Pole Village in Ankeny, Iowa. When the doors opened at 9:00 a.m., we were ready to sell, the shoppers were lined up outside the doors, and we were off to the proverbial races.

You never know how a venue will turn out, so you have to be prepared for anything. Two weeks earlier, my husband and I traveled to Clarinda, Iowa to sell the same crocheted goods at Clarinda Craft Carnival. This has been an excellent selling venue for us in past years, but this year the weather was unseasonably warm—weather that does not exactly put winter apparel in the minds of shoppers. Our results, while not awful, were also not spectacular. The lesson learned—and you always learn lessons everywhere you sell—is that it probably would not be a bad idea to make part of my merchandise less weather-dependent. I have already started a list of possibilities, not least among them crocheted lace earrings.

This past weekend’s venue had a number of positive factors going for it, cooperative colder weather among them. The booth space was larger than other venues where I have sold, enabling me to set up my tables in a shallow U-shape. At the two ends of that U-shape, I set up props—one tall boot and one short boot at one end, each accessorized with a boot cuff. For the boot cuffs in particular, having real boots on hand as “models” served a useful purpose; at Clarinda’s craft fair, some people had no idea what boot cuffs are. In fact, many were more familiar with the term “boot toppers” than boot cuffs, and a few people couldn’t understand why you’d wear them at all. I guess that just meant they weren’t my typical customers; you can’t take these things personally!

On the other end of the U-shape, I stood up a table mannequin who wore a head warmer and scarflette. This gave me the opportunity to show how you wear both accessories.

In the case of the scarflette, I could point to the button on the back side of the flower embellishment that allows the two ends of the scarflette to cross and fasten into place. Inevitably, this led to an explanation that there is a second way to fasten the scarflette: you can scrunch up one of the tails and slide it beneath the petal openings of the flower, using friction to keep the tails of the scarflette crossed.

At the end of this weekend’s craft show, John and I packed everything up, counted the earnings, and talked about what we had learned at both craft shows this year.

  1. A prop—not just a picture—is worth a thousand words. One woman’s boot cuff is another woman’s boot topper, and sometimes no one knows what either term means.
  2. Pay attention to traffic flow. Foot traffic was heavy at the Ankeny craft show, moving counterclockwise around the gym in which we were located. The shallow U-shape provided a welcome space for people to stop for a breather, invited conversation, and subsequently drew them to the merchandise.
  3. Pay attention to customers’ comments. A color that I wear a lot—jade—was nowhere in sight among my products. Next year I will remedy that omission!
  4. Don’t set up your booth display the same way at all craft shows. Even if you have sold at the venue previously, you create customer excitement with variety. Brick-and-mortar retail stores do the same thing, rearranging the location of merchandise frequently to draw attention. Think about booth arrangement before you arrive, and get clarification from the show’s organizers if you have no idea what to expect. Often a map of the venue is available online or via email.
  5. Weather can be a factor in people’s shopping habits. Take this into consideration when you evaluate your show’s results. If I had never sold my products previously in Clarinda, I might have come to the conclusion that this is not a good venue for me. Instead, I need to think about how I can minimize the effect of weather on what I can sell.
  6. When you evaluate the worthiness of a craft venue, don’t look at only your sales. There are many factors that define success. Consider not only your expenses (booth fees, travel, meals, hotel accommodations), but also how much you have learned about your customers, future product possibilities, and possibly also other selling opportunities.

Do you typically take the time after a craft show to do more than count your earnings and take inventory of your stock? It’s critical to hold an honest conversation with yourself and possibly a partner to evaluate what went well, what didn’t work, and what you can do differently in the future. In the process, you’ll create better possibilities for your next selling event.

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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